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Miami City Ballet In New York City Debut

by Marian Horosko
January 23, 2009
New York City Center
130 West 56th Street
(Audience Entrance is on West 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues)
(Entrance for Studios and Offices is on West 56th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues)
New York, NY 10019
212.247.0430
Miami City Ballet
2200 Liberty Avenue
Miami Beach, FL
33139
305-929-7000
miamicityballet.org
In just 5 evenings and 2 programs, with a repertoire of Balanchine and Tharp, Miami City Ballet brought back memories of the shape and verve of the original Balanchine company when its home was at the City Center Theater and director Edward Villella was one of its star members. He has catapulted from stardom on stage to stardom as a director of a company now considered a major interpreter of Balanchine works. Many companies have reproduced Balanchine works without the understanding of his kinship with Stravinsky, who was constantly at rehearsals looking dour and silent. Rehearsals were a trial, since Stravinsky played by the rehearsal pianist was an agony of strident sounds and strange rhythms. Balanchine would tell us (this reviewer was a member of the NYCB) to listen for certain instruments as cues, but we never heard the instruments until dress rehearsal! Nonetheless, Miami City Ballet, a young, good looking group is enormously aware of Stravinsky's musical structure as melded into Balanchine's elegant movements.

Because of financial disappointments over the loss of pledges, the company was unable to afford an orchestra. Sympathy went out to the dancers who had to anticipate a beat by holding still until the moment they heard a sound. They did extremely well.

Program I opened with the 1972 classic "Symphony in Three Movements," (Stravinsky) was full of Balanchine humor and his innate show-biz moments. Tricia Albertson who studied in San Francisco captured the spirit. The next work, "La Valse" (1951) to the music of Maurice Ravel, who was the rehearsal pianist-composer for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, where Balanchine got his start as a young choreographer, is a huge, full-stage, continuous waltz. It now appears dated and was a haunting choice since Tanaquil LeClerq, Balanchine's wife at the time, faced yet another theme with death. When she was a young girl, she was a poster girl for a polio ad; as a paper doll in "Jeaux D'Enfant" (1959 and 1975) was swept into a burning stove; in "La Valse, she looks into a mirror and saw her death. She contracted polio while on tour in Denmark and did not recover but lived as an invalid. In this Valse, Balanchine shows his courtly manners, a gentle offering of a hand to his partner. He was always romantic. The program ended with "In the Upper Room" by Twala Tharp.

But it is the later choreography that defines Balanchine's inventiveness: the use of the flexed foot (not unfamiliar to Asian dance), sassy and jazzy prancing as an entrance and an exit, entwining bodies during pas de deuxs, exaggerated 2nd position (the widest space between two feet on the same on the floor or upside down) and the thrust of the hips forward while on one pointe… a scary but exciting movement to see. There could be more of that. And more articulate feet. The men in the company need a stronger concept of the style that Balanchine permitted in moments that reverted to his legacy of the Leningrad school with textbook jumps and turns.

"Square Dance" had a clean and handsome polish on the second program, along with "Rubies," flaunting, brash and jazzy. It was performed better than any other company with it in its repertoire. But the test of a company's worth is always a performance of "Symphony in C." It is a non-stop series of entrances and exits by the full company. Haiyan Wu added a delicate and meticulously detailed interpretation into the second movement.

Now 23 years old, Miami City Ballet, with their south-of-the-border infusion of talent different from the born-in-the-USA dancers during Balanchine's lifetime, has every opportunity to become world-class. We wish MCB would attempt more of Balanchine's sophisticated works such as "Episodes," "Chaconne," and "Agon" We'll wait.
Miami City Ballet, SYMPHONY IN C Dancers: Katia Carranza & Renato Penteado

Miami City Ballet, SYMPHONY IN C
Dancers: Katia Carranza & Renato Penteado

Photo © & courtesy of Joe Gato

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